A couple close friends of mine have each suddenly, unexpectedly, tumbled headfirst into love. It tickles me to no end! I vicariously feel all their excitement with every thought of their new sweethearts, their heartstrings fluttering as they happily whistle through their days. It’s just the way new love is supposed to be…wrapped in a happy swirl that envelops us like a sweet haze of dream and delight.

I remember that feeling well, and yes, I will eventually tell you the beginning of our love story, Cliff’s and mine.

For all of us, the ride in our iridescent bubble of new love eventually touches down, and we find ourselves in the everyday world of making a life together. We discover that we are each a bit less ethereal and more earthbound than it seemed when we first entered the love bubble. And that’s good, too. Now the learning and possibilities for self-transformation can commence. Who wants to change a thing when we’re floating around in la-la love?

The first reality check is to ask whether this person is someone we truly admire, who lives in such a way that the world is a better place because of them. Next we look at ourselves and ask whether this person brings out the very best in us, inspiring us to live to our highest potential. Otherwise, no need to bother falling back in love when we fall out!

Even if we determine that this is a worthwhile relationship to preserve, we will occasionally bump into each other with an “Ouch” and discover our craggy edges. A family friend used to call marriage “the rock tumbler of life” that eventually creates polished gems. With a little healthy introspection, we in fact realize that, yes, I do have a few sharp points to file down. Oh and I have a few voids that I need to fill myself so that I don’t have a black-hole effect on my beloved.

So what else is there besides the rock-tumbler crash and black-hole grab of life together? THAT certainly doesn’t sound like happily-ever-after!

What does it take to fall in love, again and again?

Pursue every endeavor that makes you a whole, contented individual: Sometimes I visit my family when Cliff can’t take time off to come with me. I make dates with my girlfriends to do stuff we like and talk about our kinds of things. I take singing and painting lessons. Even if he’s my very favorite person to spend time with, I don’t depend on him for my whole social life. When he gets home from a paddling adventure or I get back from teaching a fantabulous class, we each feel good and have something fun to talk about. It’s easy to fall in love with someone who is loving life.

Remember that this person is special in your life: Greet each other with a smile, a squeeze, a flirt or a tease whenever one of you comes in the door. Remember their birthday and your anniversaries (first meeting, first kiss, etc.), plus other events important to them. I need to program myself for the Honolulu Marathon every year so that I can hand Cliff a sports drink at his two traditional pit stops near the church and the gas station.

Hang on tight but loose: Give the other person the chance to stretch their wings. Neither of you can satisfy the other person’s every need in life. Cliff built Still & Moving Center for us even though it meant I was leaving our construction business that we’d been doing together for almost 25 years. And I feel all the more in love with Cliff for letting me go and helping me to create my dream.

Keep it fun: Cliff and I agree not to gripe non-productively about lousy stuff. We don’t need to drag each other through the mud we’ve already been through in our days. Keep a mental checklist of lightweight topics to bring up: funny incidents from your day or some great little piece of news to celebrate. Be sure to do date nights and excursions together. I love when he takes me out clothes shopping once every few years! Surprise each other by planning something out of the norm – like the time he secretly arranged an overnight babysitter for the kids and took me to a nice hotel instead of back home after our dinner date.

Confide in each other more than anyone else: Make sure you keep a privacy to your relationship that no one else can come between. I offer this advice only if your partner is absolutely trustworthy in integrity, never presses you to keep secrets, never tries to manipulate you or keep you to themselves, and you are ALWAYS 100% safe with this person.

Learn how to really listen and really talk: Hear what the other person is actually saying, not what you expect them to say or want them to say. Find ways to have meaningful conversations about important issues and decisions. Be a sounding board for each other – the person who knows and loves you best. Cliff and I have worked through huge individual and shared problems in that way, helping each other see weak points or opportunities that alone we may have missed. And recognize when the other just needs a listening ear, not someone to fix everything.

Be fearless in owning your feelings, avoiding the blame game: Take “you always” and “you never” out of your vocabulary. Say how YOU are feeling now, however childish: “This happened and I feel ____(embarrassed) (completely confused) (unappreciated) (like having a tantrum)___ .” Sometimes we both end up laughing to hear it out loud! Let the little stuff go, but if you can’t, speak up early, work through it, then throw it out the door together…before it grows feet and starts stomping through the room on its own.

Fight fair: Hold your punches even when you’re furious. You could say something that would really hurt. Remember: you LOVE this person, and for that reason, being out of sync with them is more painful than with anyone else. You’re not trying to win and make them a loser, you’re seeking to come back into harmony with each other. While expressing your hurt feelings or disappointment or exasperation, remember to honor the light of that higher self within each of you. I call to mind something really sweet about him that’s much more and better than what’s irking me right now, and it helps me bite my tongue instead saying something mean that we’d both feel terrible about for a long time.

Do not let the day end without a needed apology: If you have to sleep (or not sleep) in the other room until you can figure out what to apologize for, so be it. I do my very best not to let my beloved leave in a way that I would regret if he never got to come back.

Accept every sincere apology: Drop the subject and allow the apology to be backed by a change in the future. Learn how to make up and move on without a lot of debris trailing behind.

Look with the eyes of love: My shape was never quite the same after having kids, and my lines and creases only INcrease with the years, yet Cliff often lets me know he sees me as beautiful. Hearing that is a pretty good way to fall in love all over again!

My, my, look how long this letter has already gotten! Guess our love story will need to wait for another time!

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